|USF student Tim Bain witnessed the shooting of trooper James Crooks.
"He didn't know who I was at first," said Bain, a 20-year-old University of South Florida student who found himself a bystander to a murder rampage on his way to work in Wesley Chapel on Tuesday.
"He had his hand on his holster and yelled, "Get down on the ground!' " said Bain, who witnessed the shooting at Interstate 75 and State Road 54. "I said, "It wasn't me. He's shot.' "
Once the trooper realized Bain was not the gunman, he rushed to the patrol car where rookie officer James Crooks, 23, lay dead.
The trooper put his head in his hands and wept. Within seconds, dozens of other law enforcement officers were on the scene.
Carr stayed free by staying invisible
"I didn't sleep much last night, and the phone's been ringing all day, but I wanted to get back to work. I need the money."
Bain said Tampa police officials have asked him to come to the station for further questioning and fingerprinting. Although it is clear that Crooks was shot by Hank Carr, Bain was the only person in the car with the dead trooper.
"I know they don't think I did anything, but it's still kind of weird," he said. "They told me it was just procedure; process of elimination."
When he first noticed two troopers parked in the median on I-75, Bain said he figured they were running radar. When one of the troopers, Crooks, pulled in behind him, he said he feared he was going to get a ticket.
But Crooks kept going. Bain caught up to him at the SR 54 exit ramp just seconds before the shooting. He heard the loud boom of Carr's weapon before he even saw the gunman. He saw Carr fire a second shot directly into the front windshield.
As another motorist sped off after Carr, Bain jumped out of his Grand Am and rushed after Crooks' car, which was careening off the roadway.
Cutting himself on broken glass, he reached into the driver-side window and threw the gear shift into park. When the car kept rolling, Bain jumped inside and slammed his foot on the brake.
Tim Bain said Tampa police officials have asked him to come to the station for further questioning and fingerprinting. Although it is clear that Crooks was shot by Hank Carr, Bain was the only person in the car with the dead trooper.
Until recently, Bain had been a criminal justice major at USF and was considering a career in law enforcement. He switched to mass communications and now hopes to become a record producer.
His stepfather, a New Jersey police officer, advised him against becoming a cop.
"All the stress, the danger, the long hours. He told me it just
wasn't worth it," Bain said.